Glossary of Terms
  • Advocate: advises the Petitioner / Respondent and is called upon to intervene on behalf of his client with arguments based in the law and the facts which support their side of the case.
  • Annulment: This is the more common name given to a decree by which a marriage is declared invalid by a Church Tribunal.
  • Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota: The Tribunal of the Holy See.
  • Constitution of the Court: The Judicial Vicar or Officialis must constitute a court of either one Judge or three Judges and a Defender of the Bond. The names of the officials appointed by the Presiding Judge must be communicated to the parties and they have the right to present reasoned objections to the make-up of the court e.g. if one or other party knows a particular individual on the panel or is related etc etc.
  • Consummation: For the Church, consummation can only be between the married couple themselves and involves three inseparable elements. To be sure you understand fully what consummation means in this context, please click here
  • Decree of Absence: A Decree of Absence is issued by the presiding Judge assigned to a case if a respondent ignores the citation. A party so affected will be advised of the Decree and the effects of the Decree, i.e. he/she will not be afforded the opportunity to inspect the completed dossier of evidence which will be presented to the Defender of the Bond and the Judges. A party will however be informed of the outcome of the case and afforded the opportunity to appeal against the decision. Should a party who has been declared absent subsequently decide to take part in the investigation the decree of absence will be revoked.
  • Decree of Acceptance: This is the formal acceptance of the petition. The notification of acceptance and the citation of the respondent and defender of the bond must happen simultaneously.
  • Decree of Conclusion: The Decree of Conclusion is issued by the Judge when parties have had the opportunity to inspect the file (as explained above) and after the parties have had the opportunity to add or clarify matters to the existing information upon which the Judge(s) will render a final decision.
  • Decree of Publication: The Decree of Publication is issued by the Judge dealing with the nullity case when all the information / evidence is gathered. When the case is completed the parties, i.e. the petitioner, the respondent, the advocate or procurator and the Defender of the Bond have the right to inspect the contents of the file which will be put before the Judge(s).
  • Decree of Rejection of the Petition (Libellus): This is the formal rejection of the petition by the Judge assigned to examine the petition. A petition can be rejected if there is no merit to the contents of the petition or if it is wholly unlikely that a case will emerge from an investigation. A person can always have recourse against the decision of the judge either to the full panel of Judges or, if the petition was rejected by the panel of Judges, to the Appeal Tribunal.
  • Defender of the Bond: The defender of the Bond is assigned by the Judge. It is his role to present reasonable arguments in favour of the bond of marriage to the Judge(s). It is also the defender’s role to make sure the procedural norms are applied during the course of an investigation and, if necessary, to challenge procedural errors.
  • First Instance: This is the First level Tribunal e.g. like the SCI Tribunal.
  • Second Instance: This is the Second level Tribunal or Appeal level in our case Birmingham.
  • Third Instance: This is the Third and final level Tribunal. The Third level Tribunal is normally the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota. The final court of Appeal.
  • Joinder of Issues / Formulation of the Doubt: This is the terminology used to describe the stage in the process (before evidence is gathered) when the ground or grounds of nullity are established and which thereafter become the focus of the investigation. The judge(s) must render a decision which responds to the ground(s) established at the Joinder of Issues.
  • Judge: A judge is appointed by the Judicial Vicar to sit either as a Single Judge or one of three judges on a panel to render a decision in a particular nullity case.
  • Judicial Vicar: The Judicial Vicar or Officialis is the priest appointed by the Church to oversee the Tribunal.
  • Letter of Citation: A letter of citation informs the respondent and defender of the bond that a case for investigation has been accepted. It gives the other party and the defender of the bond the opportunity to engage in the investigation or to propose counter arguments at a time appropriate to the investigation.
  • Notary: The notary is the person who authenticates all Tribunal documents and vouches for their accuracy.
  • Petition / Libellus: A petition or Libellus (latin term) is the formal request signed by the petitioner which introduces a claim of nullity of marriage to the Tribunal for adjudication.
  • Ponens: This is the latin name given to the Judge who writes the Sentence or decision of the court.
  • Presiding Judge: The Presiding Judge is the main Judge who oversees the procedures and investigation in an individual case.
  • Sentence: This is the written Judgement at the end of the process which contains the Decision of the court. It should clearly explain how and why the judge(s) reached their conclusion in response to the doubt established at the Joinder of Issues/ Formulation of the Doubt.
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